An Uneasy Night Spent under an Astrologer’s Roof

Please forgive my relative silence lately, but I’m currently in the midst of a vacation in the midwest. I just spent the weekend at the Bristol Renaissance Fair and am now on my way to Gen Con in Indianapolis (where I’m really hoping to see Will Wheaton collate some paper…). If anyone is hanging around Gen Con this week, and wants to say hello, I’ll be hanging around Kenny Klein’s booth in the vendor area and playing washboard in the hallways. You can also probably catch me in the evening having dinner with Kenny and Christopher Yates. I can promise you much hilarity, if nothing else. (I also learned that the Wisconsin Cowboy is a very fine thing indeed…)

Last night, as we were between Bristol and Gen Con, I had the pleasure and the honor of getting to stay the night at the house of Janet Berres, Tarot Reader extraordinaire and master Astrologer. Janet has been reading Tarot for over thirty years and has read for thousands of clients. She is the author of one of the definitive texts on Tarot and has amassed a huge collection of Tarot cards. Her website says that she has 1400 different decks, but talking to her last night, she said that it was well up to over 1800 now. Her eventual goal is to start a Tarot museum and open it for the public somewhere in Chicago.

My significant other has known Janet for about five or six years at this point and trusts her for all of his Tarot needs. They met at a festival in Minnesota and have been keeping in touch ever since.

I don’t usually get to hang out with Tarot readers (well, I live with one, but I don’t think that he counts). And I have never actually had a sit down, professional reading done for me before. I am a very beginning Tarot reader and have only recently begun to sit down and learn the basics of the Tarot. I’m lucky in that my significant other is a walking encyclopedia of Tarot symbolism, but even he, who has also been studying it his whole life, admits that unless you devote your entire life to the Tarot, you’ll only ever skim the bare surface of it. Janet Berres is one of those people who has dedicated her whole life to the Tarot.

She didn’t want to read my cards until she had done my astrological chart. She used a good old-fashioned computer program to do my natal chart, but after she printed it off, with only glancing at an astrologer’s almanac every now and again, she took about forty-five minutes to explain all my various signs and planets and the effects that they were going to have on my life. She also laid out a few specific dates over the next four years where she thought that I was going to have to deal with stressful situations. And then she read my cards. She did a general reading and then did four different spreads for me for specific questions. She was eerily accurate.

As someone who is in Acquisitions, I was fascinated by how she kept on top of buying all of these different decks. When I asked her about it, she told me that it was getting harder and harder. She said it used to be easy to keep track of every deck published. Only a few publishers were putting out Tarot decks, but now, especially with the internet, many smaller independent companies were putting out decks and it was harder for her to hear about things.

Her house though, in and of itself, was pretty amazing. She has decks, upon decks, upon decks of Tarot cards everywhere, all extremely organized and on their own book shelves. She also has a huge library of books on astrology and the Tarot. Tarot imagery hangs on her walls, sits on her shelves, is in her furniture and in her decoration. And the house itself, just keeps going…

At a recent meetup, we had an interesting discussion on Tarot reading and divination and whether people thought that they were receiving information from the Gods directly or whether or not they thought that something else was going on. Janet told me that she thinks that all of divination is receiving information from the divine, though maybe not from a specific deity. She also thought that everyone has some of the ability, or is slightly psychic, and if they really try, they can interpret the cards to some extent or another. She said though, that she was just lucky enough to be one of those people who have a lot of the talent to do readings and see the messages that come through the cards to her. When I asked her to describe her reading style, she told me that she sees the images in the cards and they tell her a story about whatever is going on in her client’s life. She doesn’t do the more logical interpretation that my significant other does and she doesn’t do intuitive reading the way that some of my other friends do. To her, the cards speak and tell stories.

She didn’t get into as much astrology with me, but she had just as many books and items relating to astrology and the zodiac around her house as she did the Tarot. When I asked her what her favorite deck was, she told me that even after all of these years, she still uses the Rider/Waite/Smith deck. She said that she didn’t know how many times she has had to replace her deck, but she uses the same one over and over and it hasn’t led her astray yet. She thought that this deck had been the most influential on all of the other Tarot decks out there and that its imagery was the best to be found.

While I had an interesting night (I’m pretty sure that Janet’s house is pretty spectacularly haunted), it was a fascinating night of getting to talk to one of the best Tarot readers in America right now. I’m sure that I could have sat and talked to her for days and days and still only have gotten the very beginning of everything that she knows that is related to all of these many topics. She was currently getting ready to do several workshops and meetings with other Tarot Readers in the area and also had a few that were flying in, specifically to talk to her. While my S.O. and I stayed with her, she received many calls from clients (at all hours of the night) asking her for her help and her advice, which she graciously gave. She never seemed to mind stopping whatever she was doing to assist someone with something. She was also a wonderful hostess while she was at it. If you ever have an opportunity to get to talk to Janet or to have a reading, take it. It is an opportunity that you won’t get to have everyday.